Joseph Juran, one of the founders of the quality field, recently died at 103. Seems like leading a quality life leads to longevity! The quality process also leads to longevity in business. Juran said that 80% of a firm’s problems stemmed from 20% of causes. Management should concentrate on the “vital few” rather than the “trivial many.” In a career, concentrating on the vital few offers the same guide for business success. Here are the vital few for you to focus on for your business success.
First, you have to get results. If you’re doing your job well, and you produce results, that is the beginning of demonstrating your competence. While I wish that being competent were all it took to get ahead, it’s not enough. If it were, all talented people would be the organization leaders and those less talented people (this group includes the truly less talented, the suck ups, the diabolical and others who sometimes do get ahead) would be working for them. Here’s why getting results is a good first step. Can you imagine being promoted for purely political reasons? This does happen as evidenced by the group in the previous parentheses. Now imagine managing people who have no respect for you. It’s a whole lot harder. I’ve even seen subordinates sabotage the success of such a leader. Why start with that kind of a deficit?
The easiest way to get ahead in business is to have a great manager. This person can teach you so you produce results, guide you so you have the right work experiences and most importantly promote you—literally. Your promotion includes talking highly of your work to other senior members of your organization and also recommending you for job openings. What do you do if you don’t have a great manager? Then you have to take the results you’re getting and become recognized within the organization on your own.
Here’s how you get recognized in your organization. If you work with external customers you have them write letters of support about your work to your management. Early in my career, I was very surprised at my annual review to have my manager read me an unsolicited letter written by a customer complimenting my work. Was I flattered! You don’t have to wait for an unsolicited letter. Ask for them. If you don’t have external customers, think of your internal customers. Ask them to email your manager and their manager about your work. If your manager won’t promote your work, then perhaps another manager will get to notice your work. Another way is to volunteer for projects in your organization that cross department lines. The more people that know you, respect you and like your work can supply you with the “good gossip” of office politics. This is the scuttlebutt about who is going where, what openings will exist, and who’s looking for what. You get to be considered early in the selection process. That means you have a real chance to be considered for the job.
If you want to get ahead in business today, you don’t have to do a lot of things. You do have to do a few things well. And you have to do the right few well. Juran was right. It is all about 80-20. Do your 20% well and I can promise that you’ll get the 80% business results you want. I can’t promise that you’ll live to 103.